Review: R. Kelly Fails to Shine at RedLight Concert Series

Originally published on November 04, 2013 in print issue of Metro Magazine.

R. Kelly at Red Light Concert series at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, November 2, 2013. (Reuters Archive)

When promoters Chase Parson and Collin Abraham presented their RedLight Concert Series to the Trinidad and Tobago population, it was met with great anticipation by some and minor apprehension by others. The headliners for the first concert of this series were Ne-Yo and R.Kelly, but Ne-Yo’s reputation for not showing up to previous concerts in the country was notorious. Nevertheless, most were looking forward to an intimate night of romance to the sweet songs of R.Kelly, the sexiness of Ne-Yo, and to groove to a little soca by Machel Montano and Bunji Garlin along with Fay-Ann Lyons at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

P2 Productions’ – Parsons Creative and Pollen Nation- intent to please was clearly there: the Redlight Lounge and Black Diamond ticket holders were treated to a red carpet and roses for the ladies on arrival; the RedLight Lounge was the closest to the stage, outfitted with white lounge chairs and of course red lights for ambiance; the Black Diamond patrons were greeted with their own version of beautiful cushioned chairs in their area, and everyone seemed happy with their appetizers from the Canapé Menu.

Bunji Garlin, Fay-Ann Lyons, and the Viking Family opened the show with a string of hits including Garlin’s “Differentology.” This was a great start to the evening.

“I’m having a great time,” said one patron. “I came here to see Machel and of course R.Kelly,” she said before sauntering off to dance to Ne-Yo with her date.

Everyone’s great time was short-lived as Ne-Yo began his set. He gave a stellar performance given the circumstance. Within the first 15 minutes of his performance, the rain began to fall, drenching patrons who were not under the covered stands – the VIPs. Surprisingly, what the promoters failed to plan for was the impending rain, in a country where it is currently the rainy season. The VIPs’ lounge and cushioned chairs were set up in the open field, leaving the general admission ticket holders in the covered stands and being the lucky ones that night.

The first spell of rain quickly passed with only a few people seeking shelter and Ne-Yo not missing a beat. However, before he could complete his set the VIPs, in their expensive outfits, shoes and hairstyles were once again soaked in rain. Former Trinidad and Tobago president Maxwell Richards was seen scampering away with his wife and many others as they tried to get out of the rain, never to return.

In preparation for Machel’s set, MC Jason Williams tried to get the crowd excited again by encouraging patrons to keep dancing, stating that there was only one thing rain stopped in Trinidad – that is cricket. Some of the more enthusiastic patrons bought into it and danced in the rain. This, in turn, created a Wet Fete type atmosphere as opposed to the intimate setting P2 planned. One patron even took off his soaked shirt as he danced to the DJ while they waited for the King of Soca to come on stage.

The event was even a nightmare for media. They were invited to cover the event but the promoters secured no pit for them to do their jobs. Photographers were shuttled way behind the patrons and told that they should have brought “longer lenses to shoot with.” Writers and other hosts were seated in random places, barely able to see much of what was going on unless they fought their way to the front.

Eventually, all seating arrangements were disrupted once Machel hit the stage, with many patrons now standing and general admission ticket holders invading the exclusive RedLight Lounge. During Machel’s set, there was more rain, which saw patrons covering with chairs, retreating to the stands, or sheltering under vendor tents.

After Machel’s performance, patrons waited over an hour for the headliner, R.Kelly, to hit the stage. The Grammy Award-winning artiste left little to be desired when he did finally arrive. Unlike the previous mains acts that graced the stage before him and seemed to give their best, Mr. Kelly cruised onto the stage as if he just rolled out of the hotel bed, dressed in a black t-shirt, harem pants, and black hoodie. He opened with a crowd favourite “Body Calling,” and went down an impressive track list of songs such as “Bump and Grind” and “Fiesta.” However, his narcissistic persistence of trying to get an already exhausted and impatient crowd to “love him,” was not impressive.

The idea of an event like the RedLight Concert Series perhaps seemed great on paper, or perhaps better in the heads of the promoters, but clearly the execution fell through. By the time R.Kelly hit the stage, half of the already minimal crowd had left with more leaving three to four songs after he began singing. The inaugural RedLight Concert Series event was a disappointment, primarily due to simple oversight with regard to a few things that should have been put in place. Hopefully, they are more successful in the upcoming countries for the Series tour.

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